Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.…
1. A man's soul is like a garden belonging to an old neglected mansion. It is full of excellent things running to waste. Now a garden has no right to be dilapidated. It is made on purpose to confer pleasure and profit. So the soul of man is full of good dispositions and kind impulses; but besides these it is full of the stinging nettles of pride, and vanities flaunting coarse colours. A soul's power to produce pleasure or pain in another is very great. We are commanded, therefore, to produce pleasure. It is not left optional with us whether men shall be made happier by our going among them. And not occasionally by a gleam and a smile. It is to enter into the whole carriage of our lives.
2. This is neither a small nor an unimportant business. The making others happy is one of the best manifestations of the Christian disposition, and the closest imitation of Christ's example. Our duty as Christians is not simply to go out after men outside of morality. All about us society is full of men whose lives average but very little sweetness. And it is for us to seek to make them happier. Some men move through life as a band of music, flinging out pleasure to every one, far and near. Some men fill the air with their sweetness as orchards, in October clays, fill the air with the perfume of ripe fruit. Some women cling to their own houses like the honeysuckle over the door, yet, like it, fill all the region with the subtle fragrance of their goodness. How great a bounty and a blessing is it so to hold the royal gifts of the soul that they shall be music to some, and fragrance to others, and life to all! It would be no unworthy thing to live for to fill the atmosphere with a brightness which others cannot create for themselves.
3. Men neglect frequently these very simple and very obvious truths, because there is still a remnant of asceticism among good men. "Oh," say they, "make men better, and then their happiness will take care of itself." But much of men's selfishness and sin springs from their own unhappiness. And whatever shall take that away will tend to make them better. Again, men say, "My business is to be honest, and just, and not to make people laugh." Yet you have no business to be just and honest in such a way that those who stand next to you shall be less happy by your way of being so. No one has a better right to be a hedgehog than a hedgehog; but is he a good neighbour? A thistle belongs to the ordained economy of nature; and yet is it the model of a man? How many men there are who, rude of speech, go thrusting here, and piercing there, and treading down sensitiveness on every side, with no other excuse except this: "Well, 1 believe in a straight, out-and-out kind of man. Jack Blunt is my model!" Undoubtedly, and a very bad model very well imitated, too!
4. We are not at liberty to please by pandering to the bad elements in men's characters. We must move upon the right feelings in men, and not stir up the wrong ones, nor the evil ones. In order to this there must be a discipline in ourselves. In the free intercourse of human life you carry to men the faculties that are active in you, and tend to excite in them precisely the same feelings. If you are irritable, you tend to produce irritation. If you are proud, you tend to excite the resistance of pride. And these feelings never, in you nor in any other person, ministered to cheer. They are sand in the teeth. No man can be happy himself, or promote happiness in other men, until he has learned to put to sleep these malign faculties every day. The whole machinery of life, then, needs a great deal of oiling in you in order that you may minister to the wants of others.
5. We are not simply to carry happiness to those that are around about us. In the olden time it was thought that we should love our friends and hate our enemies. In the modern time it has been thought that we should love our own denomination, and hate those that are heretical. Therefore there has been felt to be a solemn duty incumbent on the Catholic to hate Protestants, and there has been felt to be a corresponding duty on the other side. Now, it is my business as a Protestant Christian man so to treat all Catholics that I shall please them, for their good, to edification. For a thousand years the experiment has been tried of bombarding men into love and faith; and with what luck? Is it not time to see if we cannot please men into unity; if we cannot drop the things that are disagreeable, and insist upon the things that are pleasing, for good, to edification? As it is in religious matters, so should it be in civil. There are times when men must stand in politics for principles, and at such times men cannot avoid giving pain. But this furnishes no criterion for the average of cases. Ordinarily, men who come together knowing that they are on different sides in philosophy, or in politics, or in business, if they be Christian men, should bear in mind that they are to "please one another for good to edification," and not irritate and chafe and hurt each other.
6. If these views are correct, then there is a new element of personal piety that should enter into the conception of every one. We ask men whether they are willing to leave off every known sin, etc., but how seldom do we question men as to beneficence of disposition! When, then, we are bringing men into the kingdom of God we should inspire them with heroic enterprise in doing good; but there are thousands of men who are attempting to do good, who never had it enter their minds that they were to make happiness. If I were to carry home this subject to the household, are there not many families that would bear some reformation? On the other hand, how many households are there that call themselves Christians, and have a right to, because all daylong each one is shining on the others; because each one is removing obstructions, taking away attritions, smoothing asperities, and seeking to make all amiable and all happy? When, after the long, loathsome voyage, I entered the channel, and saw, dim upon the horizon, the blue line of shore, and smelled the strange odour in the air, I said to the captain, "What is this smell?" "Bless your heart!" said he, "it is the land-smell." All the smells of the sea put together were never so sweet as that. There are persons so lovely that you cannot go near to them without perceiving that they exhale gladness and cheer and happiness. Blessed are such! I believe in revivals; but I have never known any revivals that did not need to have ether revivals in them. I have known men revived from intemperance and from wickedness, who went into churches and into neighbourhoods where they set themselves up on their orthodoxy and their propriety, and carried themselves so unsocially, so offensively, that they exerted no happiness-producing power. No person has drunk in the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ who does not make other persons happier when he comes to them.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.